Bordeaux: The World’s Wine Capital

The French region of Bordeaux has a fascinating history of wine production. Consequently, it has been branded one of the world’s wine capitals. Bordeaux wine history dates back to the 17th century when grapes farming started flourishing in France. The Bordeaux region is situated in Southwestern France and is widely known for its wine tourism. It is an excellent base for tourism, tasting, and buying wine. Bordeaux’s extraordinary urban and architectural ensemble led UNESCO to add it to the World Heritage List in 2007.

In the contemporary world, mentioning the city’s name evokes an image of wine in both wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs. How then did the city become synonymous with wine?

The Golden Age of The 17th Century

The French region of Bordeaux has a long history of making some of the greatest wines in the world. The city’s golden era started in the 17th century with the introduction of new clients, like the Bretons, Hanseatic, and the Dutch. At this time winemaking was a traditional practice, with winemakers producing both red and white wines. Later, these wines served as the prototypes for modern Bordeaux wines.

Wine Classification

Napoleon III significantly affected the development of Bordeaux’s wine industry in the 19th century. In 1855, he organized a universal expo to showcase the best French wines. He instructed Bordeaux vintners to create a classification system to guide visitors to their best wines. “In just two weeks, a group of the top negociants and brokers came up with a ranking of wines in five categories based on prices paid for grapes over the previous 40 years.”[1] This 1855-classification initiative produced a significant influence on the world’s wine history. Currently, this classification is still in use and has received only two modifications since its inception in 1855.

New Golden Era

A new golden era started in the 19th century, as Bordeaux’s wine industry experienced another period of growth. During that time, wine production in the region doubled, wine exports increased, and wineries received countless new customers. France’s relationship with England had greatly improved , leading to a greater demand for wine across not just England, but the entire Western European region. Moreover, new winemaking practices were adopted, improving Bordeaux wines. However, the region also faced challenges such as powdery mildew and phylloxera diseases. Nonetheless, despite all these challenges, Bordeaux rebounded, continuing its growth.

Bordeaux City

The city is located at the center of the one of the world’s most famous wine regions, with vineyards spanning over 300,000 acres. Bordeaux is known for producing some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the world. It produces elegant wines with a unique character.

The wines produced in the area have a reputation for being among the most costly in the world. The high demand and unique taste of Bordeaux wines have distinguished them from other regions, building a solid history in the wine industry.

Terroir

Terroir is an integral part of wine production. A region’s terroir affects the wine’s taste. Interestingly, “terroir” is a French word, referring to everything that goes into the grape growing process. Including the soil type, climate, winemaking practices, and terrain conditions, and more. A combination of these characteristics determines the success of a region’s wine. The Bordeaux wine region has a unique terroir, allowing it to produce wines with a unique and elegant taste.

The region of Bordeaux comprises of different diverse terroir allowing various grapes varieties to grow well. The wine produced in this region has diverse characteristics, making it one of the most sought-after wines globally. The region experiences a maritime climate with an average growing season temperature of 64 degrees F or 18 degrees C, [2] with an average of 800 mm of rainfall. It is mainly a flat region, with the highest point being 45 meters above sea level.

Wines

Bordeaux’s terroir has some rare characteristics that add to the unique taste of its wines. Some of the most renowned wineries in the world are in Bordeaux. Most people around the world revere Bordeaux wines and have strived to replicate its winemaking practices. For instance, in the United States, winemakers employ French Oak and winemaking practices to produce Bordeaux-style wines. Besides their taste and quality, Bordeaux’s wines also come in different styles including red, white, rose, and sweet dessert wines.

Bordeaux

Dourthe No. 1 Bordeaux Blanc by Nikoretro

Bordeaux is home to grapes revered globally. The three grape varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot are the most notable. These characteristics have made Bordeaux a wine icon and one of the top wine capitals of the world.

Read: Things You Should Know About Bordeaux Wine Region

On this Day

October 19, 1453 – The Hundred Years’ War between France and England ended on this day. The war occurred in the late Middle Ages, starting on May 24, 1337. The Hundred Years’ War significantly affected France’s wine business. Before the war, England imported a significant amount of French wine, especially from Bordeaux. During the war, the relationship between France and England deteriorated, and England stopped importing wine from France. This relationship would later recover and England would once again resume importing France’s wine.

May 15, 1855 – The first official Bordeaux Wine Classification was established on this day. French Emperor Napoleon III, organized the Universal Exposition for various commodities and wanted French wines to be represented.[4] The classifications should display and guide visitors in exploring France’s best wines. Napoleon III charged Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce to develop a classification of their wines, which ended up being iconic. The 1855 Wine Classification continues to be used today with little modifications. Its effect is still significant in today’s wine industry.

July 30, 1935 – The Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) was founded on this day. The institution aimed to transform France’s wine industry by regulating and improving wine quality. They charged the organization with protecting agricultural products with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). In 2007, they renamed it Institut national de l’origine et de la qualite. INAO protects the use of revered names in the wine industry, such as Bordeaux; it also regulates vineyards, wine processing, and aging restrictions.

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References:

[1] Langton’s, “The 1855 Bordeaux Classification Explained | Langton’s Fine Wines,” langtons.com.au, April 6, 2020, https://langtons.com.au/news/the-1855-bordeaux-classification-explained.

[2] iDealwine, “The Terroirs of Bordeaux,” iDealwine Blog, March 21, 2022, https://www.idealwine.info/the-terroirs-of-bordeaux/#:~:text=The%20terroir%20is%20made%20up.

[3] Eric Asimov, “A Farmer’s Dozen from Bordeaux,” The New York Times, March 31, 2022, sec. Food, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/31/dining/drinks/bordeaux-wines-vignerons.html.

[4] Wine Spectator, “The 1855 Bordeaux Classification,” Wine Spectator, March 27, 2019, https://www.winespectator.com/articles/the-1855-bordeaux-classification-3491.

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